Mostrando las entradas con la etiqueta guide. Mostrar todas las entradas
Mostrando las entradas con la etiqueta guide. Mostrar todas las entradas

jueves, 21 de julio de 2016


   A photographic safari works the same way a normal safari would, except no animals are killed in the process. Instead, people take pictures of the creatures they want to see or they take as many as they can and make it kind of a contest. The one with the most types of animals in pictures could win something especial, whether it comes rom it fellow safari goers, the company that organizes the trip or himself/herself.

 Olive was one such person. She had dreamt for many years to go Africa and do a proper safari with the help of her best camera. She had been an amateur photographer for a long time and was looking forward to test herself with the weather and the creatures in a continent she regarded as wild and beautiful.

 In the plane towards her destination, she started take pictures and documenting her journey in a smaller camera, doing videos she could later edit into bigger ones and then upload them online. The idea was that people could follow her progress over a week and make it something that would not only change her life but also the life of people that may want to know more about where she was going and the reasons she had to do it. She was an animal passionate, a real defender of nature and wanted to take the best pictures to show her respect for the true magnificence of it.

 The first day was full of movement. She didn’t see any animals in Nairobi, as the city was not really a proper place to see wild animals. But she was picked up by a nice man called Arthur and taken to a hotel in the middle of a close by natural park. It was the afternoon and Olive hated herself for having no other option than to choose the flight that made her arrive so late but it was the one she could afford with her salary.

 As she crossed the gates of the small hotel, she took her first picture: it was a couple of giraffes feeding off a very tall tree. The sun was setting so the animas in the pictures could only be identified for their large necks against a beautiful orange sunset in the background. She took several pictures of the same subject; afraid she was not using her camera well.  She even changed the angle and wouldn’t go inside her room until she felt she had gotten it right.

 Arthur told her he had been living in the area for a long time and that some of the animals would not be as easy going as the giraffes. Some of them really did not like to be filmed and photographed. Furthermore, they would have to go out at night in order to take pictures of every single animal if that’s what she wanted. Of course, Olive got worried because she wasn’t experienced in nocturnal photography and she also felt she wasn’t fast enough, taking too much time to achieve a single shot.

 The next day, she posted her best picture of the giraffe series on her blog and had breakfast very early in order for Arthur to take her deeper into the natural park to take more pictures. But they weren’t going to go there alone. Other guests of the hotel also wanted to attend the safari. Most had very professional cameras ready and only a couple only had very basic machines because they did not come to take pictures but to experience the real Africa first hand.

 The first creatures they saw were zebras. Again, Olive took several pictures and realized she was nervous because of the amount of pictures she took of a single specimen. She was clearly worried that she wouldn’t be able to get the perfect shot and she had to let that go in order not only to achieve her goals but to actually have some fun doing the safari. She had to realize they were competing in this one so she could relax and just try to enjoy it for what it was.

 The next animal was a rhino. Arthur said it was very uncommon to encounter one so early in the safari but, apparently, the creature had needed to refresh his body first, before running away from the cameras. It was deep into the mud, barely moving, ignoring them completely or simply thinking that if he didn’t move no one would see him. Olive didn’t like those pictures at all because it was hard to recognize the rhino’s head. She tired to take some more but the jeep moved along.

 They saw a big flock of long legged birds and Arthur also stopped next to a rotting tree in order for his passengers to check it out for insects. There were many beautiful and large ones, having really bright colors and curious shapes. Some of the other women were scared, squeaking like a mouse every time a big insect moved. But Olive was very busy taking pictures to be scared. She managed to get some very interesting angles and was pleased with herself for the first time that day.

 They so more giraffes on the way back to the hotel, as they were going to have a break for lunch. Olive was not interested in eating too much but she did have to attend and stand the silly conversations that broke out between the various people of the tour.

She had always felt very different in large groups. That wasn’t a very large one only about eight people were there, but she knew what she had come for and she didn’t like to make small talk or to pretend she was there to make friends instead of taking pictures and getting better at it. She almost didn’t have a bite and decided to be the first in the jeep for the afternoon ride, getting away from the chatter and the silly laughter.

 Arthur was the first one to walk up to the jeep and he asked her if she was ok. At first, Olive didn’t understand the question. She only instinctively moved her head affirmatively because she didn’t wanted to talk, to busy checking her pictures in her camera. That night, she would recall that moment and feel stupid. It was obvious Arthur was actually concerned about her but she had dismissed him in a second, as she often did when people tried to be nice to her.

 The first creatures of the afternoon were elephants. A rather large group of them was resting under a very big tree, so big it was able to cast a big enough shadow for a group of ten elephants. They looked so peaceful and wise somehow that everyone in the jeep decided not to make a single noise. The engine of the machine was turned off and the tourists were able to stare at the creatures for a long time. They were resting and didn’t care about humans.

 As Olive took pictures, Arthur got close to her and told her in very low register that she could go closer if she wanted, but not too far away from the vehicle. She nodded and immediately jumped off the jeep, landing very hard on her ankles. Olive tried to ignore the pain and got the camera ready to shoot the best pictures yet. A couple of the other tourists stepped down from the jeep too but they didn’t walk too far way from it, just a couple of steps.

 She got as close as she felt was safe and then she started to take more and more pictures. Of the big elephant that was “sitting” on the floor, with a similar expression a king would have on his throne. Also of the three little elephants that were taken care of big the larger ones in the group, probably their mothers. Olive tired to move in silence but she was too excited to do it properly. She couldn’t realize what was happening because of that excitement but the creatures were getting anxious.

 As she was kneeling to take a better group shot, one of the elephants suddenly turned around and charged towards her, as fast as it could. It took her a couple of seconds to realize what was going on and her first thought was not to run towards the jeep. That proved to be a mistake because there was no other place in that savannah to hide from an elephant.

 A gunshot then scared the elephants away, including the one chasing Olive. It had been very close to tackle her with its tusks and crush her with its weight but fortunately Arthur had a rifle in the jeep and was able to shoot at the sky when necessary. Yet, Olive had not gone unpunished from the experience. In the run, she had dropped her camera and it now laid destroyed on the savannah floor, stepped on by an insulted elephant.

 Olive felt she was done. That accident meant she just wasn’t fit to be there, to pretend she was someone she wasn’t.

martes, 9 de junio de 2015

Broken camera in Rome

   I woke up very early, to the sound of m cellphone alarm. It was still a bit dark but I knew I had too take advantage of every single hour if I was to spend the whole day in the city of Rome. I entered the shower, thinking about how strange it was to wake up early in a holiday but that after all it was the best reason to do it. I didn’t take very long, dressing up pretty quickly and then grabbing my bag, where I kept everything I needed to walk around. I would leave my backpack, which was my only luggage, in the room until the next day when I had to leave the city.

 My real holiday had been spent in Greece, where I had been laying in the sun for almost a week. But I had decided to go back home via Rome so to have one day of sightseeing around the city. In Greece I had also walked around a lot, visited museums, gone to the beach, taken hundreds of pictures and getting to know one or two Greek men. Yes, I had a very good time in that country.

 I went down to the hotel restaurant and realized an hour had already passed since I had woken up. As I helped myself to orange juice and cereal, I noticed only another table was occupied at that time by an elderly couple. Every other person, especially families, woke up late during the holidays which would have been great but I wanted to have the option to visit as many places as possible. As I ate, I checked a small schedule I had created with things I could do: museums were ruled out as they usually take a long time to go through. But I couldn’t avoid going to the Colosseum and to the Forum as they were symbols of the city and walking them wasn’t that time consuming.

 After lunch I decided to go there first, as it was the farthest place on the schedule. I would begin to walk from there closer to the hotel, in order to get there late to have some hours of sleep and then leave early in the morning for home. The metro station was not very far so it was in a matter of minutes that I arrived to the Colosseum. The place was very majestic, although some of the walls were covered as they were being repaired. There were men dressed as ancient roman soldiers all around and a lot of tourists, even that early. The place had a weird vibe, as if it was palpable that people had died there. On the highest part, I took several pictures and realized more and more people were entering. After some more minutes, I crossed a small piazza towards the Forum. The entrance fee covered both sites so it was perfect.

 Various temples still stand, very large structures and the general layout of the site is magnificent. It was there when I noticed two things: there were lots of tourists in the city and the temperature was rising fast. After all, it was the middle of summer. Silly me, I hadn’t brought a water bottle with me and I already started to feel a bit lightheaded. I went on walking; trying to “shake it off”, but it wasn’t that easy. Finally, a sign saved my life when I realized there were water fountains all around the premises, in order for people to fill their bottles or drink directly. Apparently the city had one of the purest water in the continent.

 I didn’t walk all around because some areas were only trees and some ruins. I took pictures and then moved on. The Circus area was a disappointing place, more like an undeveloped terrain than anything else. Across that stretch of land, which was pretty big, I made the line to put my hand in the Mouth of truth, a whole in a marble image that people used to think was good to use as a lie detector. I then walked through the streets to finally reach the Piazza Venezia where there was a large statue of Victor Emanuele, the man who united Italy and made it a republic. I only took pictures from the outside and it was here my luck had run out.

 My camera had stopped working. It wouldn’t turn on so I decided to walk towards a small square in front a church and sit there to check it properly. This would have taken a lot of my time and I had no time to lose. But that was visible not important to an unanimated object that wouldn’t work. I took the battery out, the memory card, I shook it and even yelled at it but it just wouldn’t work. As I did that, someone came closer to me and said something in Italian I didn’t understand. It was a man, maybe in his thirties, who was extending his hand to me. For a moment, I felt scared, but then I realized that if the camera was broken, there was really no harm in giving it away.

 The man took it in his hands and checked it all around. I, for one, was looking at him. Italian men were very into the facial hair thing and always very lean, not muscular or fat but rather nice complexions. The man didn’t seem to notice my eyesight going all over him as he tried to ask me something in his language. I tried to understand, breaking it up buy words. I recognized the word “help” and the word “camera”. I nodded, looking a bit stupid, and then he stretch out his arm to me and I grab it, clumsily again. He started talking and walking and I just followed him. I realized I was losing time but I felt I couldn’t just be rude to him.

 He talked every step of the way. I just nodded and smiled, thinking how stupid I must look doing that like a robot. After a few blocks from the square, he pulled out some keys and entered and old building. Inside, it was beautiful. The place was full of lowers and everything was very clean and taken care off. A cat slept on a corner and barely looked at us as we passed. I followed the men up some stairs and to, what I presumed, was his apartment. It felt really cool at this time of day. He offered me a chair and then started to check my camera on a table with a big lens and a lot of different tools and gadgets I had never seen but would attribute to an engineer or a mechanic or something like that.

 He had stopped talking and was very concentrated in the camera. He opened one side and started moving things around. I nervously took out my cellphone and realized time was passing fast. I needed to head to the Trevi Fountain if I wanted to visit every place I had put on my list. Uneasy, I stood up and tried to say something but couldn’t think of the words. Anyway, it wasn’t necessary. He turned around, put a hand around my wait for me to get closer and explained slowly what he had done. Funny enough, I understood it all. The camera was working again and I could keep taking pictures. I took out my wallet to pay him for his troubles he grabbed it and put it back in my bag.

 So he didn’t wanted pay. I asked again but he kept nodding his head negatively so I stopped talking and just stood there like an idiot. Then I remembered my schedule and decided to just shake his hand and be on my way. As I turned around, he pointed at himself and said he would take me around. Yes, he spoke in my same language which was both funny and annoying, as if I had know he knew what I was saying it would have been less of a weird experience.

 We went out to the street and right enough, we went to the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, Piazza Navona and through streets he knew very well. We didn’t really talked about ourselves, not even when we decided to have lunch in the afternoon, after walking a lot. We had a delicious pizza and ice cream for desert and it was only then when I told him I was a writer and he told me he worked fixing all kinds of electronic devices. But we went on to talk about Rome and Italy and politics soon enough.

 To be honest, it had been a great day with him and I had more time to spend. So we went to the Vatican and entered Saint Peter’s basilica, which is enormous. It feels like entering a huge cavern or something like that. Pietro, as he had told me his name was, explained to me everything there was to know about the site. Funny enough, some tourists thought he was a guide and began asking him questions. He was kind enough to answer every single one of them. After that, he took me again through the streets, taking pictures of people, cafés, ice cream parlors and just about everything. The sun had already gone and I had only a couple of hours left.

 He invited me to have some wine and then we chatted again about things that were not us. About other people, my trip, his country. He was very charming and I could feel he didn’t do that often. He wasn’t a player or a very outgoing person. He was just one of those people that loves to help and that feels alone, because that I could see, as he walked me to my hotel. His eyes talked as his mouth didn’t and that was more than enough for me. When we got to the lobby, I wanted to shake his hand but he decided to hug me instead. It was a very nice hug, also speaking volumes, which his mouth was unable to express. We bid farewell and then I went up to my room.

 To this day, I regret not asking him for his number or email address or something. But I also answer myself that it probably wasn’t one of those encounters. Maybe it was meant to be a one-time thing, one of those that’s really great and lives in our memo

sábado, 20 de septiembre de 2014

The Summit

They were almost there. Raul, the guide, had said it was only a hundred meters or so to the tallest point. Or so they thought he had said. Hearing wasn't an easy task, as the wind blew stronger in the altitudes Breathing was also difficult and the freezing cold made it even harder.

It was the first time any of them, except Raul, had attempted to hike such a tall mountain. It had been called Ritacuba Blanco and the name was fitting: the place was covered in a think layer of snow, that confused every sense and the mind.

Again, Raul, who was the first in the line to the top, yelled something but this time no one heard him. The wind appeared to be muting all of the members of the team on purpose, although that was obviously preposterous.

They walked another fifty meters and then they understood what Raul had said. Laura, the scientist from Pasto, fell in a crevasse and pulled everyone else into it. Luckily, Raul and Juan had their tools ready and held strongly on the white floor. Fast, the others helped Laura getting out and avoided the crevasse. Franco put a red flag by the gap on the floor, pierced the snow with all his strength.

They continued for a few minutes until they made it to the top. Raul warned them, breathing with difficulty, that they could only stay for a few minutes. As they had no oxygen tanks, staying more than necessary could mean dying there or on the way down.

There were six explorers, seven with Raul. They all sat on some rocks that overlooked the cliff, on which the tallest point was located.

Juan, as experienced as he was, took just one moment to see the scenery and then went back to Raul and started talking about the descent. It wasn't that he took it all for granted, not at all. Juan was just thinking of so many things at same time and seeing mountains from the top of another mountain didn't do anything for him. He had a wife and a baby girl to think of. At the cost of loosing what he loved most, he had to choose either a well paid job or loosing them both.

Laura, however, sat on a rock and filled her lungs with the purest air she might ever breath. It was true that oxygen was scarce, was somehow it felt cleaner and better than anything else. She loved how the mountains looked and how beautiful the world looked like this, just peaceful. It was different of what she had known her whole life, and the fact that this beautiful place existed not that far from home, was overwhelming to her.

Luis, an mature hiker with a thick beard, inhaled too but many more times, as if he defied the world. Only Raul knew that Luis was dying of cancer in the blood and this journey was a way of saying to life "you can't beat me up". The mountains and what he saw weren't as beautiful to him as the fact of having being able to do it all on his own, this last few months. He was going to die, true. But he wanted to imprint his mark on the world.

Veronica, a geology student, had come with a camera and started taking pictures as soon as they had reached the summit. She was a cheerful photographer, having documented her life and her family's life in huge amounts of pictures. Digital or analog, she didn't care. She only cared about keeping memories alive forever and this was her way of doing so. She had lost her father recently, and he had promised to go hiking with him. She wanted to take the most beautiful pictures to honor her father's memory.

Marcos and Tomás thought of each other as brothers. They admired the view, never kneeling or crouching or sitting but standing up to it, taking it all in as if it was a gift that one couldn't just let pass by. Both men, still young but already working through life, had decided to take this trip to defy their bodies and test, once more, the limits of their friendship. Marcos and Tomás were not real brothers, not relatives by blood. They had lived together from a young age as orphans, on the streets and under the care of others. But they never let each other go.

The six visitors came to the mountain, each one with a kind of mission. Some of them were successful, others not so much. But what was valuable wasn't the physical prowess as such. It was the fact that they had decided to take a challenge in order to honor something, to be true to themselves.

As they returned to the base camp, near a beautiful blue lake, their lives seemed to have improved, at least a little, even for a tiny space of time. They had learned no one defies a mountain out of courage or for the need of glory. All who do it, do it just for the urge, the need to define who they are.